The holiday grab bags offered from internet bargain retailers or daily deal sites have always tempted me. Having watched videos of unboxings, they're usually full of gimmicky gizmos, phone chargers, and miscellaneous USB dongles. I've managed to hold curiosity at bay knowing I don't need a box full of cheap junk.
What of the same concept applied to gaming? Never had a chance on that save.
Several game companies have used this method to clear out their warehouses to the mutual benefit of company and consumer. This is the first chance I've had to get a hold of one of these. Other years my near-holiday gaming budget had been absorbed by Paizo sales or tossed into the eBay arena, but this year not so much. I've thrown down for the Goodman Games 2013 Holiday Grab Bag box and for a similar deal at Frog God Games. Goodman Games is the first to arrive and here's what it contained:
The list from top to bottom:
- Goodman Games 4E product line promotional poster
- Laminated art print of a DCC module cover, Sailors of the Starless Sea
- World Championship Dodgeball (card game)
- Dungeon Alphabet, third printing (system-neutral book on old-school dungeon design, 64 pages )
- Wicked Fantasy Factory #4: A Fistful of Zinjas (4E adventure, 48 pages)
- DM Campaign Record (fill-in forms for notes with some handy prompts and charts)
- Level Up #2, July 2009 (4E magazine, 64 pages)
- Forgotten Heroes: Scythe and Shroud (4E character classes, 105 pages)
- Points of Light (system-neutral book of mini-settings, 48 pages)
- Age of Cthulhu: The Long Reach of Evil (CoC adventure anthology, 72 pages)
- DCC The Emerald Enchanter (DDCRPG module, 16 pages)
Many of these items are still being sold from the Goodman Games online store. The cost of the box was $30 (+ $12.35 shipping). Going by their listed price, the box contents are worth about $120, not counting the promo poster or cover art print. Of course, I rarely buy at full retail. Noble Knight has a slight discount on most of these items and the price for this would be in the $100 range. A quick search through eBay for the lowest prices of these books puts them at around $80. Split the difference puts us at $90, thus we received goods valued at about three times what we paid.
After a browse through, here's a breakdown of my first impressions in a Good-Bad-Ugly gradation, except I like to place the worst in the front.
The poster is for Goodman's 4E product line. I'm disinclined to put up a poster for a product line or edition I haven't played and have no gravitation towards.
The art print is of the cover, complete with the title and byline. Thinking on it, the print may actually be a printer proof of the cover for said module. Not a terrible thing, but it does limit its use as a visual game aid or a wall hanger (unless the module becomes legendary amongst gaming adventures).
Not interested in the theme of the Dodgeball card game. Care even less for the art. Moving on.
The Fistful of Zinja adventure has several things going against it. First it's 4E (but that's minor). It has weird but utterly generic and bland pseudo-manga-style art. Black text within a dark text boxes used in a black & white layout makes many parts of the text a strain on the eyes. Appropriate for the art it has a vague and superficial far eastern theme as if "zinjas" didn't give that away. Here they're some sort of shadow-linked (what isn't "shadowy" in 4E) otherworldly invaders who travel by inter-dimensional castle (à la Krull's Beast and Slayers). It takes more than naming an ambitious warlord and his demon corrupter a "shogoon" and "oni" to make them stand out. The adventure actually uses terms like finishing moves (not a terrible idea actually so this book has some uses), mooks, phat lewt, movie rights, and the Big Badass. Overall it seems uninspiring while trying unsuccessfully to cram the zany over-the-top flavor of anime and rule-of-cool genre tropes in a D&D format.
Not surprisingly, the items that attributed for most of the potential discount from the list prices where the dodgeball game and the zinja module.
The DM Campaign Record could be useful, plenty of space, good setting and NPC design prompts, a handful of useful charts.
Level Up #2 is a hodgepodge of 4E material (races, adventures, feats, artifacts/items, character options, etc.) but also edition neutral stuff to be expected from a magazine [reviews, interviews, questions, a brief ecology with most taken by 4E stats, and an article on a deity of Aereth (Goodman Games' in-house setting)]. Notably, it has an official WotC sanctioned article on the Villains of Eberron, part of it is about adapting the threats into 4E's adventuring tiers. Seems like a fun issue for a gaming mag.
Forgotten Heroes: Scythe and Shroud is a book detailing four new 4E classes, the assassin, the deathwarden, the necromancer, and the spiritsworn. Not going to get much use out of it, but the theme of death as a power source is a strong one in fantasy literature. The authors are Tavis Allison (Adventurer, Conqueror, King), Eytan Bernstein (freelancer with WotC amongst others), Brian Cortijo (freelancer, mostly Dragon magazine and Pathfinder, and also a Forgotten Realms fan) and Greg Tito (also ACK). I just happened to recognize the names, no idea they worked on this book. I can spot some neat ideas cropping up on just a skimming of pages.
Age of Cthulhu: Long Reach of Evil is a Call of Cthulhu adventure anthology, three adventures by three authors across the locales of Peru, Sumatra, and Tibet ("Incan ruins, erupting volcanoes, and madness at the top of the world") all set in 1920s. Okay you have my attention. Not exposed to CoC much, but interested in its material either way. The printing is done in a sepia brown, including the text. This makes readability a problem but compensates for it with clean layout and atmospheric art and artifacts (letters, clues, and evidence) to really immerse the group. The authors are Mike Ferguson, Rick Maffei, and Richard Pett. The former two I believe have several CoC adventures to their names, the latter also has some Pathfinder material, much of which is Mythos inspired or just plain creepy if the reviews are anything to go by. All in all, Long Reach of Evil probably had the right team and is one of the heftier books of this grab bag.
The Emerald Enchanter, a module for the DCCRPG. This is off of Goodman Games' main product line complete with trippy fantasy art and funky old school-inspired rules set. This is nice and current and appreciated.
Dungeon Alphabet, system-neutral letter-by-letter guide to old school dungeon building and monster stocking. It's also a hardcover. 'Nuff said, it's something I actually wanted and would have gotten eventually anyway. Glad to have it.
Points of Light, a set of mini-settings by Robert Conley. Have always want this since I've seen OSR blogs mention it. Now I have it thanks to this grab bag.
So was it worth it to me?
Yes. Just the three awesome items covered the basic cost, everything else was just nice extras with some of it opening my awareness to products I didn't know about but might be interested in.
If you haven't tried a Goodman Games grab bag before, I recommend you try one for fun. Certainly beats a box of USB cables and screen protectors. Who knows you might get some nice old school inspired goodies or a useful other edition adventure or game magazine.